Federal agents have arrested a NASA researcher for allegedly failing to disclose ties to Chinese government entities, the Justice Department announced on Tuesday.
University of Arkansas-Fayetteville professor Simon Saw-Teong Ang, 63, was arrested on Friday and charged with wire fraud.
“Ang made false statements and failed to report his outside employment to UA, which enabled Ang to keep his UA job as well as obtain [US government] research funding,” an affidavit in the case reads. According to the DOJ, Ang defrauded NASA and UA “by failing to disclose that he held other positions at a Chinese university and Chinese companies.”
Ang has been an electrical engineering professor at UA since 1988, and has engaged in several projects for NASA and other U.S. government agencies. Ang’s ties to China were discovered by a university employee who was attempting to ascertain the owner of a hard drive placed in the university’s lost-and-found. While searching through the hard drive, the employee discovered emails between Ang and a visiting researcher from Xidian University in Xi’an, China.
“You can search the Chinese website regarding what the US will do to Thousand Talent Scholars,” Ang wrote in one email. “Not many people here know I am one of them but if this leaks out, my job here will be in deep troubles [sic].”
The criminal complaint against Ang states that while he did disclose participation in a Thousand Talents program in 2014, he failed to report connections to other programs between 2012 and 2018.
The Thousand Talents program is a Chinese government-funded initiative whose stated purpose is to encourage scientific research, but which U.S. intelligence agencies warn have led to Chinese attempts at espionage and intellectual property theft. Republicans on the House Oversight Committee have launched a probe into Chinese funding and influence at American universities.
“We cannot allow a dangerous communist regime to buy access to our institutions of higher education, plain and simple,” Representative Jim Jordan (R., Ohio) said earlier this month. “We owe it to the American people to hold China accountable and to prevent them from doing further harm to our country.”